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Steelers vs. Eagles pregame

Written by Dan Gigler on .

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Ed Bouchette checks in from the Heinz Field press box:

The song remains the same

Every time a star player or two is seriously injured in a preseason game, especially the first week, many in the media renew their call for a shortened preseason. The arguments for the NFL to go to fewer than four preseason games usually go like this: It’s such a waste for StarQuarterback to be hurt in a meaningless game.

They almost always say the solution is to have two preseason games and stretch the regular season from 16 to 18 games. As if, Star Quarterback getting injured in the first regular season game might mean more to him, his coaches, owners and fans than if he were injured in, say, the third preseason game.

As Chuck Noll used to say: How do you prefer to die?

The reasoning for adding two more regular season games does not make sense to the premise of it all: To keep the players safer. In the preseason, starters play little except in the third game. In regular season games, they play the whole thing.

Tonight, however, I heard a good reason from a smart football man why they should shorten the preseason. Rosters this year were held to 80, 81 if you had a European native -- as the Steelers have – to put on the practice squad. That’s down at least five – team’s received roster exemptions before this season for Europe League players.

That’s one reason Mike Tomlin took his team to training camp three days later than he could have. The personnel man I talked to said coaches are worried because they have fewer players for the preseason games, and they don’t want to play their starters any longer than they have to.

Now, that’s at least logical. But what would the owners/players do if they cut the preseason and did not add those games to the regular season? The revenue has to come from somewhere and I don’t think the players would be willing to take a cut in pay to see one or two preseason games disappear, at least not enough of them.

The answer might be to let training camp squads expand back to 85 or even 90 players. Owners may balk at that because more players equal more money, even if it is training camp.

My bottom line prediction: Unless Tom Brady, Peyton and Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger suffer season-ending injuries in the same preseason, the status quo will remain.

Courtesy of Carl Spackler

The Heinz Field grass looks better than ever. If only it could stay that way into December. They installed a new DDGrassmaster surface this year. This is the third time they’ve installed that system, so it’s not like it will avoid the problems of the past.

At least for now, it looks good.

Final auditions start tonight

The first roster cut does not take place until Aug. 26, which is 2 ½ weeks away. The final cut comes four days after that. Yet teams only have to cut five players on their first date, then get rid of 23 four days later.

In the old days, they’d gradually cut down, and had a few cutdown dates while they were still in training camp. Of course, they also were permitted to have rosters that reached 100 or more as well.

It should not be too difficult to determine who Mike Tomlin has in mind among the younger players, and it starts with tonight’s game. Those who do not make it into the first preseason game and are healthy are not headed for the 53-man roster unless it’s a veteran the coach does not want to play.

Third stringer walking tightrope

Rookie quarterback Dennis Dixon was a Heisman Trophy candidate at Oregon until his ACL was torn, ending his season and his chances at the trophy.

The Steelers drafted him in the fifth round, figuring they had the luxury of having two veteran quarterbacks and could have patience with Dixon as he developed.

It will take even more patience, perhaps, than they thought. Dixon has not looked good in camp, most prominently when he throws the football. He’s inaccurate, throwing behind and low to receivers and often to a defensive player. Tomlin mentioned as much last week.

Brian St. Pierre left as an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Arizona Cardinals, even though the Steelers told him he’d have a chance at replacing Charlie Batch as the No. 2 quarterback, if not this year then next. They drafted Dixon to possibly be that man.

There’s no guarantee, however, that Dixon will make the 53-man roster. He could go on the practice squad and still be third on the depth chart, which is what St. Pierre did several times.

The Steelers would risk another team claiming him off waivers, but the way he’s looked in practice, it might not be a big risk.

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